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Nursing home employees postpone strike after governor’s intervention

Providence Journal - 7/31/2020

The union representing workers at five nursing homes has indefinitely postponed a strike after Gov. Gina Raimondo urged them to hold off and pledged to work on staffing legislation the union favors.

Workers at Charlesgate Nursing Center in Providence, Bannister Center in Providence, Genesis Pawtucket Center, Hopkins Manor in North Providence and Genesis Greenville had planned to go on strike Aug. 5. In a letter Thursday, Raimondo urged SEIU Healthcare 1199NE to postpone their job action, and said she was "fully committed" to working on staffing issues and developing a minimum staffing standard.

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The union wants Rhode Island to pass legislation that would mandate 4.1 hours of resident care a day in nursing homes. Raimondo said July 22 that she favored the legislation, which passed the Senate but did not pass the House.

"My office is fully committed to working with the Legislature and the leadership of SEIU District 1199 to reach a fair resolution of the staffing issues you have raised and to develop a minimum staffing standard," Raimondo said in her Thursday letter.

Raimondo had previously urged the unions not to go on strike, pointing to the crisis that homes face right now with the coronavirus pandemic.

After her letter Thursday, the union agreed.

"For years, caregivers, seniors and family members have been calling for an end to the deadly status quo in nursing homes and we are glad Governor Raimondo has taken an important step toward ending the short staffing crisis," Adanjesus Marin, lead organizer for SEIU 1199NE, said in a news release.

The trade group for for-profit nursing homes in the state has warned that the legislation would go much further than any other state, and would put homes out of business. They instead favor a House commission looking into various nursing home financial issues.

"We're pleased that they did finally take the action to call off the strike," Scott Fraser, the president and CEO of the Rhode Island Health Care Association, said in an interview. "Because this has caused a lot of stress and concern not only to our homes, but the residents. Planning a three-day walkout of your entire staff in the middle of a pandemic, that's just unconscionable. That's just wrong. We're glad they did make that change."

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